Cajuns’ Comeback Stuns Arkansas State 77-76
Special players make special plays at special times.
Elfrid Payton is special.
The junior guard scored Louisiana's last eight points as the Cajuns made up a seven point deficit in the final 1:51 to beat Arkansas State 77-76 before 3,275 at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, AR.
Louisiana clinched the #3 seed and a first round bye in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference tournament in New Orleans. The Cajuns will meet the UL Monroe/UT Arlington winner in the quarterfinals Friday night at 8:30 at the UNO Lakefront Arena. The win was the 20th of the year for the Cajuns (20-11, 11-7 Sun Belt), the first time they've reached that mark in the regular season since the 2002-03 season.
The Red Wolves (18-12, 10-8) are seeded fourth and will play the Arkansas-Little Rock/Troy winner in their quarterfinal game at 6pm Friday.
A three point play by Melvin Johnson III with 1:51 left gave A-State a 76-69 lead, but Payton nailed a triple just a few seconds later to draw the Cajuns within four. Brandon Reed, one of five seniors playing his final game at the Convocation Center, missed two free throws at the 1:17 mark. Payton missed a jumper but put back his own miss to cut the lead to two points, 76-74 with 1:04 to go.
Ed Townsel, who scored 23 points for the Red Wolves, then missed a jumper with :30 left and the Cajuns worked the ball to Payton, who nailed his second triple with 11.0 seconds left to give the Cajuns the lead. Rakeem Dickerson missed a last second shot and the Cajuns had the hard earned victory.
Payton finished with 17 points on 6-14 shooting. He had eight rebounds and six assists. Shawn Long notched a double double for the Cajuns with 25 points and eleven rebounds along with three blocked shots.
Johnson III led ASU with 28 points, including 6-8 on three point attempts.
The Cajuns held a 43-40 lead after a three point basket by Kevin Brown with 17:20 left, but ASU went on a 17-3 run highlighted by a pair of four point plays, by Townsel and Dickerson and had their biggest lead after a Kendrick Washington jumper, 57-46 with 12:38 to play.
But the Cajuns responded with a 14-3 run of their own with Long scoring seven of the Cajuns' 14 points during that stretch. Long's three pointer tied the contest at 60 with 9:44 to play.
The Cajuns shot 45.9 percent for the game (28-61), while the Red Wolves hit on 43.9% (25-57.) Each team made nine three pointers in the contest. The Cajuns outrebounded Arkansas State 40-35, including 16 offensive rebounds.